Tips to Organize Your Fiction Writing
Writers know we can be scatterbrained when it comes to keeping all the moving parts of a story together. Who's doing what when, am I using this word too much, what did I call this city again, etc. Organizing isn't just for nonfiction and essays; it's immensely helpful to organize your fiction writing so the drafting and revising goes as smoothly as possible.
Stick around, folks, for my tips on getting organized.
When plotting your world and story, it's easy to leave notes scattered everywhere: snippets of dialogue in a notebook, pieces of worldbuilding mixed with character arcs somewhere, interesting facts that may or may not squeeze into your plot. To make it easier to refer back to, condense all these pieces by themes. For example:
Character information like arcs, descriptions, and dialogue in one notebook, document, or folder.
Worldbuilding such as places, maps, cultures, and religions into its own notebook or folder.
Use a chart, table, tiered bullet points, or whatever makes sense for you to map plot points, arcs, and scenes. Some prefer writing programs such as Scrivener to help with this.
Add all documents and folders for your story into a master folder with the title or main character's name. If you're using physical notebooks, you can keep these together in a file, drawer, or with a rubber band.
KEEP IT FLEXIBLE
The information and plot are going to change over the course of writing, so you don't want notes set in stone (which is why I prefer a Word document over a physical notebook). I don't like completely deleting things in case I decide to work them in later, so I keep a "junk folder" where I add deleted scenes, information that doesn't belong anywhere, dialogue that didn't find a home.
I pull from the junk folder as needed, or it sits there until the story is complete and I can recycle it into a new one.
It's tough to know what details you should pen down. If you're like me, you keep character descriptions in your head and find those profile charts redundant. "I can see them—why do I need to write what color their hair is??"
But if you're like me, you also underestimate how many characters and ideas you'll come up with, and many of those get lost in the vacuum. Oops.
Even if it feels silly, draft up that character chart. It can be as simple or complex as you want, but it keeps your backstory and facts straight so you're not saying a character's birthday is in January one chapter and February another.
As you can see, mine is nothing complicated, although I would put more detail into the bio and description. If it's fantasy, I add notes about their culture/land, their fantasy race or language, etc. Then I pull a photo reference from Pinterest to help me visualize each character.
To reduce clutter, I page break and add characters by order of plot importance in a single document, title that document something like "WIPname_Characters," then chuck it into a "WIP Reference" folder.
I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, so I completely understand diving in with no direction. But once I find that direction, I like to keep track of where I'm going and jot ideas to work in later.
For this, I use a bulleted plot overview and timeline.
I'm sure there are plenty of more organized ways to do this: charts, graphs, the works. Again, you can be as detailed as your heart desires, but my time-constrained self likes to keep it simple, keep it plain.
I don't always stick close to the timeline. Sometimes, I write the chapter and then add what happened to the timeline. It's simply to keep track of where I've been and where I want to go, in addition to mapping out days of the week and month so my details stay consistent.
Do you use any of these methods for your writing? If you give these tips a try, let me know how they work for you in the comments below! You can also find us on Instagram or Twitter, where we're always excited to talk about books and writing :)